Beware, America! Leading Republicans are gathering in Washington tonight to honor each other at a Jack Kemp Foundation awards dinner. The inherent nature of the event, held in the name of the original “empowerment” champion Kemp, and the timing (when Republicans are hungry for “new ideas” based on the same old ideology) make this a likely occasion for the unveiling of some really bad policy proposals, probably involving tax credits christened as “pro-family” or “pro-responsibility,” and guaranteed not to unsettle any of America’s economic power relationships.
Moreover, as Politico‘s VandeHei and Allen inform us, this is the first tilt in the 2016 presidential contest, with the two scheduled speakers–this year’s Jack Kemp award winner Marco Rubio, and last year’s Paul Ryan–both trying to break some new ground. Rubio needs to show some substantive chops, and get out of his Latino conservative box. And Ryan needs to start becoming something other than (to use Charles Pierce’s catchy term) a “zombie-eyed granny-starver.”
So they’ve both been hanging with the conservative think tank crowd, and we’ll all wait with bated breath to see what the ideas wizards of the Right have in store for us via these marquee pols. It’s been my observation over the years that a powerful disinclination to deploy the public sector to do anything positive tends to lead conservatives to come up with “policy ideas” that are thinly-disguised vehicles for abandoning public responsibilities (e.g., the ever-popular devolution and privatization schemes). Conservatives are usually on stronger ground when the peddle the undiluted cut-taxes-and-government elixir. But that has limited sex appeal beyond “the base,” so again: tonight we should all beware when the fruits of right-wing think-tankery get their moments on the red carpet.